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Disney's Hitler film ridicules the Nazis without illuminating them.

  Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi (as Hitler) and Scarlett Johansson sit at a table in a still image from the film.

Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi and Scarlett Johansson in Jojo Rabbit .

Fox Searchlight

Jojo Rabbit is not the only film on the Toronto International Film Festival with footage from the Nuremberg Rallies. A Hidden Life Terrence Malick's contemplative profile of Austrian conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, contains several clips from the infamous Nazi propaganda documentary Triumph of the Will . But it is, at least as far as I know, the only one that combines footage of Adolf Hitler's rise with the Beatles title "I want to hold your hand", with the lyrics translated into German. As the crowds crowd the streets and long for a look at the guide, you can only feel the attraction of the song, the ecstatic onslaught of its desire for connection, even as you watch a country succumb to an insidious ideology instead of being bound together through the transporting power of pop music. It is the new sensation that captures the nation: Hitlermania.

Jojo Rabbit is nervously portrayed by his marketing materials as an "anti-hate satire", focusing on the adorable, supra-national Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a 10-year-old who is just living to prepare for to fight for the Fatherland during the last days of World War II. His father, a defendant deserter, is absent both in his life and in the German Army, and the men who remain in his city are a collection of screwed-up and unsuitable rejections. Therefore, Jojo invents an imaginary friend, as he is to serve a male role model – and this imaginary friend is Hitler himself. However, Jojo Hitler does not quite correspond to reality. On the one hand, it is more about helping a boy overcome his insecurities than about the triumph of the master race. On the other hand, he is played by author and director Taika Waititi, the New Zealand-born child of a Jewish mother and a Maori father. A gesture that can only be hoped to turn out to be deadly offensive to any white Supremacist who might try to co-opt the film for their own purposes.

Waititi is no sleek provocateur, and in his remarks after the premiere he made clear the seriousness of his intentions and likened the present moment to 1933.

Waititi plays Hitler, who in the questions and answers after the film's world premiere was referred to as "the friend" – like an anti-Semitic Jiminy cricket who spends beads of wisdom and periodic racist insults. It's a tricky balancing act, and one may wonder why he even did it, especially since the book from which the film originates from does not contain such a figure in Christine Leunen's Caging Skies . (At the premiere, Waititi joked that his adaptation was based on the inaccurate summary of his mother's plot.) There will be a lot of people objecting to the film just because of the concept. Some of the early reviews that pejoratively compare with Life Is Beautiful read as if they were half written or at least thought before the film was even shown. But Waititi is not a sleek provocateur, and in his remarks after the premiere he made clear the seriousness of his intentions and likened the present moment to 1933, when the world's "ignorance and arrogance" prevented an existential threat from appearing ,

Although you do not know it from the preliminary work of the film, the heart of Jojo Rabbit is not Jojo's relationship to Hitler, real or imaginary, but to Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), the Jewish girl he is living in a hidden room in the home of his family. Although she keeps it quiet in front of her son, his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), is clearly against the Empire and worried about what her son has become. (When she wonders what happened to the cute boy she knows is still there, she sounds like the parents of a contemporary old-right activist.) Elsa is smart enough to tell the stories Jojo has learned about the demonic powers of the Jews, to pass them on to them An advantage that intimidates him to remain silent, while relying on human contact, especially during the long time when Jojo's mother is not in the house. Despite his desire to please his imaginary leader, Jojo is not a very good Nazi who lacks the wickedness of even killing a hare, which is the source of his mocking nickname. He is convinced that he pumps Elsa for information, collects Jewish secrets to share with his superiors, but what he really does is compile fairy tales and replace his absent (and probably dead) sister, just like he did did with his father.

The humor of the film is deliberately broad, sometimes almost vaudevillian. On the words "a Jew!", "God bless you!" When a Nazi is ordered to drum up a pack of German Shepherds, he returns with a pile of lambskin vests. Jojo's friendship with another outsider Hitler Youth reject, a fat kid with thick, round glasses, has the stylized quality of a Wes Anderson movie, except that Jojo throws grenades from a grinning Nazi captain (Sam Rockwell). But Waititi makes no light to the Nazis; He ridicules them, denying them and their contemporary analogues the dignity of taking them seriously, in contrast to the real threat they pose. (On stage he called the true Hitler "this jerk.") For Jojo Rabbit comedy is not a means to minimize, but to analyze, to find out how hateful ideologies can be conceived as such Comfort and how to declare under their promise how the world really works is an understanding that is no more sophisticated than that of a child. It's not hard to watch a movie, but it's hard to think about, and even harder, just sit with him.

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